Mar 8, 2007 3:24am
A Cross-Cultural Comment on Humour & Leacock
Stephen Leacock was, in 1912, a famous Canadian writer. He was assistant professor of political science at McGill University at the time. In 1912 his book Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town was published. It was an idealized picture of a little Canadian town, modelled after the town he knew on Lake Simcoe, Orillia. Sunshine Sketches is not a novel but, rather, a series of short stories. Leacock’s sketches serve, for me, as an example, a model, for my own prose-poetry. My poetry is in many ways a series of sketches, shorter than short stories, usually packed into a page. To write a bold and masterful novel with monumental literary images has always seemed beyond me as it was for Leacock.
Sunshine Sketches is full of humour but it is kind; it focuses on human folly; it is an elaborate web of varying perspectives and varying narrators. The book was published ten weeks before ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to Canada. ‘Abdu’l-Baha always called the Canadians kind. –Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 8 March 2007.
They laugh at each other here, Stephen;
you would have liked Australia, its wit
and irony. I think they laugh more here.
A writer who is funny needs to talk to
his world—I try; I make it simple but,
perhaps, not simple enough. I don’t have
your skill and talent, Stephen. I was just
five months in utero when you died in ’44.
Are you passing on to me some of the power,
the leaven by which the arts and wonders of
the world are made manifest, Stephen?
Are you Stephen? Are you? Will you?
Your fictitious small town, Mariposa,
could have been Burlington, Picton,
King City, Dundas—one of the towns
where I lived back in the sixties and the
ordinarily ordinary people I knew then…
or one of the towns in Australia where
I came to dwell: Katherine, Smithton,
Zeehan, George Town—but the humour
is sharper here, cuts closer to the bone,
but still it is the same humour of loss
of faith, disillusionment, shattering of
ideals that have not been replaced with
animating purpose and strong convictions:
rather, a deeply inlaid scepticism, cynicism
which is a real, a genuine, philosophy of life.
8 March 2007
Aug 26, 2007 7:51am
Re: A Cross-Cultural Comment on Humour & Leacock
A PRELIMINARY TASK
In the fall of 1936, as the North American Baha’i community was planning its first formal teaching program(1937-1944), the famous Canadian humorist, author and retired professor of political science at McGill University Stephen Leacock went on his last speaking tour. Leacock went on to publish three books in 1937 and win the Governor General’s Award for his book My Discovery of the West. He was a prolific writer in his retirement and published many a book. In the last months of that Plan, a Plan that has had some importance in my own life, Leacock worked on his last book, his autobiography, The Boy I left Behind Me. But it was not completed. He died on 28 March 1944 some three weeks before the end of the Plan and less than 4 months before I was born. –Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 9 March 2007.
There’d been tentative anchorings
in Canada for twenty-five years1
by then, Stephen, after fifteen of
a chaotic admixture of all sorts of
stuff, a confused medley of beliefs.2
Your golden years Stephen, your
famous book, Sunshine Sketches,3
the same year He came to Montreal
for nine days and that vision of
world order gave a new momentum
as your fame grew but, still, you
were as busy as could be writing,
always writing and talking, always
talking so that when that great
transformation of the community
came(1937-1944), that great Plan
of teaching ended, your life was over.
A national identity4 was finally emerging--
or so it seems in retrospect, as you wrote
your life story and as I was just emerging
in utero, a fetus—and with that preliminary
task5 finished I would be among the rising
generation which would fulfil that vision
of America’s spiritual destiny.
1 1912 to 1937
4 According to Will van den Hoonaard, The Origins of the Baha’i Community in Canada, Wilfred Laurier UP, 1996, p.275.
5 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: 1932-1946, Wilmette, 1947, p.13.
9 March 2007
(updated for: Internet Archive Forums)